HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - It was a big day on Redstone Arsenal Wednesday as leaders welcomed a special guest- a man with a clear vision for the future of America's fighting force.
Dr. Mark Esper visited Huntsville for the first time since becoming Secretary of the Army in November and he discussed where things stand and where they're going under his watch.
Mark Esper is making his rounds to see some of the places most critical to the Army.
"It's my pleasure to come down here and visit Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal in my first couple of months on the job," he said.
He's also been to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, as well as Fort Bragg, Afghanistan and Korea.
As secretary, he has statutory responsibility for all matters relating to the U.S. Army, to include the recruitment, organization, training, equipping, and care of 1.4 million active duty, National Guard, Reserve Soldiers, Department of the Army Civilians and their Families.
As he met with members of the media Wednesday afternoon at a building on the arsenal's airfield, he talked about his priorities- the Army's readiness, modernization and reform.
"I had a chance to talk about my priorities which include the readiness of the Army, making sure we're ready to fight and win today. Second is modernization and that's future readiness and making sure we have the capability and capacity to win future fights. The third piece was reform and how we free up time, money and manpower to invest in our other priorities," he explained.
Dr. Esper made several keys stops during his visit to Redstone Arsenal to have discussions with the leadership, including the Space and Missile Defense Command and the Army Materiel Command (AMC).
He also went over to the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center's labs to see the work being done on aviation and missiles.
He says AMC is critical in sustaining and supplying the force, especially now as the Army transitions.
"We've been in Afghanistan and Iraq for 17, 18 years and we're still in both countries. But now we're opening up more towards preparing for a high-end fight, whether it's North Korea or Russia, whatever the case may be. So they're doing a great job helping the Army reposition itself to look ahead," he stated.
And looking ahead is a big part of what Esper is doing. He's creating a new Futures Command that will compress the time line to modernize and procure new equipment. It will reduce the requirements development process from 60 months down to around 12.
"We have an acquisition system right now that's been in place for many years and does a good job. But we're trying to think about how to optimize that system so we're able to deliver to soldiers the equipment and weapons and systems that they need when they need it," he said.
There's been talk about where the new Futures Command will be located, with Redstone a possible site.
Recommendations on what the new command will look like and where it will be based will be addressed during the Global Force Symposium. held in Huntsville in March.
Esper also addressed government funding concerns and he had a message for the Army and those who work to support it.
"Stay focused," he said. "We have an important job to do with the defense of our country and taking care of soldiers and making sure we're ready. The Army leadership is doing everything we can to get the message out about the importance of having a sustained, predictable increased budget."
Overall, his first stop in Huntsville garnered a positive and upbeat response from Dr. Esper.
"I'm very pleased with what I found down here in terms of my meetings. I'm sure I'll be back again in the future as I continue to make my way around the Army. My first visit was a very good one and I'm very please with what I see," he added.
Dr. Esper's wife, Leah, joined him on his visit to Redstone Arsenal.
She met with services that deal with troop and civilian welfare.
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